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People may not often think of chickens as playful or intelligent animals, but these birds do much better in captivity if they are provided with a wide range of chicken toys here are 20 different ways to keep your chickens entertained. This is even more important for chickens that have no access to free-range or foraging activities.
Below is a list of twenty of the best chicken toys you can purchase or make to keep your chickens entertained.
Hanging Cabbages Make Good Chicken Toys
Simply hanging a cabbage ball inside the chicken run is one of the easiest (and cheapest) DIY chicken ‘toys’ that a chicken keeper can provide. Not only does a cabbage hold up remarkably well – even in warmer weather – due to the tougher leaves on the outside of the cabbage, but a large cabbage can last for a few days even with a larger flock of chickens because of how tough it is.
Heads of lettuce can also be used instead of cabbage, but lettuce tends to be more tender than cabbage and may not last as long in hot weather. It’s a good idea to chop up a little of the lettuce or cabbage and scatter it beneath the hanging piece to encourage the chickens to peck at it.
Cutting the cabbage or lettuce head in half can give chickens better access to the plant’s more moist and tender parts. However, exposing these softer parts in the center may cause a head of cabbage to rot more quickly.
Do your chickens have an insulated coop? Learn how to keep a warm flock here.
Treat Balls Are Popular Chicken Toys
Many commercial treat balls are available for chickens. These balls are designed to dispense treats as chickens roll them around. This can be a good way to give chickens exercise outside of the henhouse and access to treats without them overfeeding themselves.
It can sometimes be difficult to find treat balls specifically made for chickens, but treat balls made for either cats or dogs can usually work just as well.
Here are a few treat balls that would be good to add to your coop or chicken run:
Chickens are attracted to bright colors, especially the color red, so red treat balls may act as more attractive toys than more muted colors. Chickens are curious animals. Once they figure out that rolling the treat dispensers around in the run yields good eats, they will spend hours attempting to get the treats out.
Chicken Swings Are Good Chicken Toys
One toy that chickens can use to keep themselves physically occupied is a chicken swing. Whether you make one of these swings by hand or purchase one of the many commercial chicken swings available, swings can provide hours of entertainment to chickens while also giving them a natural perch to keep them from having to roost on the ground during the day. This is not only fun for the chickens, but it is also more comfortable.
Here are a few chicken swings that would be good to add to your chicken run:
You should install several chicken swings throughout a chicken run at different heights, especially if you have a large group of chickens.
This is because the more dominant chickens will naturally gravitate towards the highest roosting perch, while lower-ranking chickens will perch on lower swings. Providing plenty of swings for all the chickens you have can help prevent pecking order squabbles over places to sit.
Do you know what to do when your chickens fight? This everything in my article.
Chickens Love Finding Treats
Along with leaving treats in treat dispensers, hiding treats throughout a chicken run can give chickens a good time as they have to scratch through their bedding to find the best bits.
Hiding treats at night while chickens are roosting in the coop rather than giving out treats in front of them can help treats last longer since the chickens are forced to forage and find the treats rather than seeing where they land.
Chickens are omnivorous, which means that you can use a large variety of different treats in their run for these hide-and-seek games—dried mealworms and cracked corn hold up well without spoiling, so they make good treats for delayed gratification.
Wire Balls Are Fun Distractions for Chickens
Wire balls are another way to dispense treats to chickens that makes the treats last longer and also gives you a convenient way to dispense them efficiently without losing a bunch of treats in the bedding of your chicken run.
Wire balls for treats can either be purchased or easily made with wire material such as mesh or chicken wire. Practice caution if you make your own wire treat balls so that no sharp wires or other pointy ends are poking out from the treat ball, as this can lead chickens to injure themselves on the wire balls accidentally. All sharp edges on toys and wires should be filed down for safety.
Do chickens live eating food pellets? Learn the facts in my post.
Suet Blocks Are Delicious Chicken Treats
Like songbirds, chickens enjoy a suet block as a treat, and these treat blocks often last longer than feeding chickens loose treats. Suet blocks can be purchased specifically for chickens through commercial venues such as farm supply stores, or they can be made or let Amazon do the hard work for you.
It’s important when providing treats and enrichment foods for chickens that you keep their overall nutritional health in mind. Overfeeding chickens is just as bad as underfeeding them and can lead to health problems such as fatty liver disease that can significantly decrease your birds’ lives.
(Source: Merck Veterinary Manual)
Chicken Scratch Is a Vital Part of Encouraging Natural Behavior in Chickens
On top of their regularly dispensed feed, chickens appreciate having access to scratch, such as cracked corn or other grains that they can scratch around for and forage for in their run. This allows chickens to participate in their natural behaviors and can make them generally happier over time since it alleviates boredom and frustration.
Providing scratch and other treats also ensures that weaker chickens in a pecking order receive adequate and varied nutrition since these weaker chickens may not get as much access to the feeding stations as more dominant hens and roosters.
Chicken scratch can consist of plain cracked corn, birdseed, or a commercial mixed grain from Amazon. Grain mixes often include cracked corn along with other grains such as barley or wheat.
Be sure when choosing a scratching mix for your chickens that you choose a soy-free mix, since eating soy is not recommended for chickens and can lead to them having difficulty absorbing magnesium and other minerals.
Do your chickens have access to food and water at night? This could be dangerous for your chickens, see the facts here.
Melons and Squash Are Fun Entertainment Stations for Chickens
Chickens enjoy a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables, and one way to provide them with these treats in a way that can also keep them occupied for hours is to break open a melon or a large squash and leave it in the run for the chickens to eat.
Many chickens love these foods, though it may take a little while for them to get the hang of eating them if they’ve never been exposed to them before.
Once they recognize melons and squash as a food source, however, many chickens will eat these treats right down to the rind – seeds and all. Be sure to remove any excess squash or melon after the chickens have eaten the majority of it to help prevent insects such as flies and ants in the chicken run (though chickens will often be just as happy to eat these as well).
Watermelon is an especially good treat for chickens during the summer since it has a high amount of water and can help chickens keep cool in hot weather.
Frozen Grapes and Cranberries are Great Treats for Chickens
Another good way to keep your chickens cool while also giving them something entertaining to do is to scatter frozen grapes, cranberries, or other kinds of berries throughout the chicken run. Not only does freezing these berries help them last longer in hot weather, but it also helps to cool chickens down when they eat cold foods. See chickens eating frozen blueberries in the above video.
Get some frozen berries for a bargain on Amazon here.
This is especially important if you keep chickens that were traditionally bred in cold weather climates, such as English Orpingtons or German Bielefeders, in hot or humid climates. Otherwise, you may end up losing weaker chickens to heat exhaustion or sunstroke, especially if they don’t have adequate access to water or shade.
One reason chickens dig holes is for heat stroke, learn the other reasons in my article.
Rolling Rolls and Other Baked Goods as Chicken Toys
Most chickens love a good piece of bread, and one way to give them access to bread while also giving them an activity to entertain them is to buy hard or stale dinner rolls from a bakery and leave them in the run. French loaves and other hard loaves of bread can also be hung in the run like a cabbage head to give chickens something to swing around and peck at.
Since bread should only be given to chickens in moderate amounts due to the empty calories it contains, giving it to chickens in the form of rolls can help keep them from eating it too quickly.
Bakeries are a great place to source cheap, slightly hard bread that is still good enough for chickens to eat but wouldn’t be palatable for people.
You can also give chickens the leftover bread from your house provided it hasn’t begun to mold. (Mold is very dangerous for chickens, and they should never be fed anything moldy to prevent them from picking up a fungal infection.)
Smearing Chicken Treats With Peanut Butter Make Them Last Longer
Another source of entertainment for chickens is smeared treats. These treats can be made up of pasty items such as peanut butter, corn grits, or oatmeal. Not only can these treats provide good nutrition for chickens, but you can also throw birdseed or other scratch grain on top of treat smears to entice chickens to peck at them. Get some peanut butter from Amazon here.
To make a chicken smear treat, follow these steps:
- Make a batch of oatmeal or grits.
- Let it cool to the point of being slightly congealed.
- Smear the grits or oatmeal onto the corners of the chicken run or on stumps or other perches inside the run. (Peanut butter can be distributed in the same way.)
As soon as they figure out that the smear contains food, chickens will spend hours meticulously pecking away the tasty paste.
If you feed peanut butter, be sure to use it in only small amounts, as this is a very high-fat treat and can ultimately lead to fatty liver and other metabolic disorders in chickens related to obesity if it is overused.
Do your chickens poop in their Water supply? Find out how to stop it in my article.
Kids Toys Are Great for Chickens
Staking out yard sales for used plastic toddler toys can be a great way to pick up some interesting toys for your chickens for cheap.
Here are some of the benefits of using baby and kiddie toys in a chicken run:
- Non-toxic: Because they’re designed to be chewed on by infants, kiddie toys are designed to be non-toxic, which means they’re safe for chickens to peck at, too.
- Durable: Kiddie toys are designed to keep human children from tearing them apart, which means it is more difficult for chickens to destroy them. This makes them long-lived toys in the barnyard aside from some fading in the sun.
- Variety: There are numerous types of kiddie toys that chickens would also find fun to interact and play with, which means you can even set up a toy theme in your chicken run if you want (such as musical instruments).
- Bright colors: Kiddie toys already come in bright primary colors that chickens are naturally attracted to, making it easier to entice chickens to interact and play with them.
If you don’t want to buy kiddie toys secondhand for your chickens to use, these toys can also be purchased in any number of department stores and online get a pack of 24 different kids toys on Amazon for around $20, You can get an especially good deal on children’s toys around the holidays.
Chickens Love To Eat Live Insects!
A good way to provide protein to chickens in a way that both entertains them and encourages their natural behaviors is to fill the chicken run with live insects such as mealworms, crickets, or earthworms, hiding them in the chicken run litter for the chickens to chase, scratch out, and eat.
These insects provide fun and food for chickens that help create a natural and varied diet for them, and they are also easy for chicken keepers to raise at home. Worm bins can be used to raise either earthworms or mealworms, and earthworms are a great addition to a garden and a chicken run.
Crickets are also easy to raise at home, and placing wire cricket cages inside the chicken run can give crickets a place to hide from the chickens while also giving the chickens a chance to catch the crickets if they dare to venture out of the cage. Get a cricket page for a great price on Amazon here.
This can provide happy hours of hunting fun for a flock of chickens while also increasing their nutritional value with a low-fat, high protein treat.
Rotting Logs Are Great Chicken Toys
Do you have a fallen tree on your property and are not sure what to do with it? Placing the log along the wall of your chicken run can let it act as a great enrichment activity while it slowly decomposes. Not only can it be used as a feeding station for treats, but it also naturally attracts insects such as grubs that the chickens can hunt and forage.
How To Make A Rotting Log Funner For Chickens
- Cook rice and scatter the grains of rice along the top of the rotting log to simulate insects.
- Smear treats such as oatmeal or peanut butter along the log to give chickens an area to peck at.
- Scatter the log with berries or other chopped fruit.
The more enrichment objects you have in your chicken run that can mimic a natural environment, the happier your chickens will be. Even though these animals have been domesticated for hundreds of years, they still enjoy acting out behaviors they would pursue naturally in the wild.
Do you feed your chickens cracked corn? Is it even healthy for Chickens, read my post to know for sure.
Chickens Love Easter Egg Hunts!
Are you stuck with a bunch of leftover plastic Easter Eggs after the holidays? These plastic toys can easily be repurposed in the chicken run. Drill some holes into plastic Easter eggs and fill the eggs with chicken feed or another small treat. Then, leave the Easter eggs scattered around the chicken run.
Once the chickens learn they can roll the Easter eggs and cause food to fall out, you will be treated to the entertaining sight of chickens rolling eggs around their run all day. Plastic eggs are a better choice for treats than real eggs, which can inadvertently teach hens to eat their own.
Tree Perches and Stumps Are Good for Chickens
While it might not seem very entertaining for people, perches and stumps are important for keeping chickens entertained and allowing them to exercise their natural social hierarchies, especially if you have a larger flock.
One way that chickens exercise dominance over each other in a pecking order is to sit at a higher level than other chickens. In the wild, this would take the form of the highest chicken in the pecking order sitting on the highest branch of the tree while roosting. The lowest chickens on the pecking order are often forced to roost either separate from the group or at ground level.
Without leveled perches, chickens have a harder time distinguishing each other in the pecking order through ritual behavior. This can lead to more in-flock squabbling between chickens of similar ranks.
Perches and tree stumps also give chickens a good place to rest their feet, as they can develop bumblefoot (a bacterial infection of the feet) if they roost too often in the dirt, especially if the run is not kept clean enough.
Do you bath your baby chics? Learn why this can be very dangerous in my post.
Chickens Love Children Sandboxes
Sandboxes aren’t just fun toys for chickens; they also act as an important grooming tool. Chickens will bathe in the sand to clean their feathers and prevent infestations from pests like lice and mites. Chickens also enjoy playing in the sand and kicking or tossing it around, just like children do. Get a sandbox for a great price on Amazon here.
Shallow cat litterboxes can make good sandboxes for chickens since they are cheap, and the lip of the litterbox provides a comfortable perch.
Be aware chickens will use the bathroom in their sandbox, so you may want to get a cat litter scoop to occasionally clean it out or toss the sand and replace it with a fresh batch, don’t pick up Chickens poop without being prepared, get IPRIMIO Cat Litter Scooper for a steal on Amazon.
You probably won’t have to do much to encourage chickens to use a sandbox but throwing some grain or dried mealworms on top of the sand can help get them digging around in it. Other materials can also be used in a sandbox in place of sand, too, such as fine topsoil or ashes.
Straw and Bedding as a Toy for Chickens
Straw and bedding on their own provide a lot of entertainment for chickens since scratching around on the ground is one of their favorite things to do. You’ll see this for yourself if you ever lay down a fresh batch of hay in your chicken run and watch your flock immediately start digging in it and tossing it everywhere.
Good Bedding For Chickens
- Dried leaf piles
- Grass clippings (make sure that no pesticides have been used on the lawn)
- Yellow straw
- Alfalfa hay
It’s never a good idea to use recycled paper or aromatic wood shavings in chicken runs as bedding or as a toy:
- Recycled paper usually has a large degree of dried ink that can be toxic to chickens if ingested.
- Aromatic wood shavings such as pine and cedar can damage the delicate respiratory systems of chickens and other small animals.
Are your chickens super loud? Why the reasons why in my post.
Grazing Frames and Planters as Toys for Chickens
Chicken keepers will notice quickly that wherever a chicken run is placed, grass disappears. That’s because chickens will spend all day scratching at and uprooting the grass until there is nothing but bare earth (and bedding) left.
One way to counteract this while also providing chickens with entertainment is to provide grazing frames. Grazing frames are wooden boxes designed to grow sprouts or lawn grass beneath a wire mesh topper. This prevents the chickens from scratching it up while also allowing the grass to grow up through the wire to be eaten and pecked at.
Check out the Garden Coops website to build your very own grazing frame!
Another way that chicken keepers can introduce growing plants as toys for chickens is to mount planters at eye level for the chickens along the edges of the chicken run and keep them planted with fast-growing salad greens and herbs.
Not only can these planters provide fresh forage for chickens, adding live herbs to the chicken run can have health benefits. Some herbs, such as oregano and lavender, make chickens calmer and more resistant to bacterial infections, make the run smell nicer, and help repel insect pests.
Chickens Love Christmas Wreaths!
One way to spruce up your chicken run while also providing enrichment—especially during the holidays—is to install Christmas Wreaths in the chicken coop.
These brightly colored garlands not only act as decoration for your run to mimic the holiday decorations on the inside of the home, but they can also act as a slow-release form of food and give chickens hours of entertainment.
Are your chickens super noisy in the morning but you don’t know why? It’s perfectly natural, and I explain everything in my post.
Materials To Make Chicken Wreaths
- Heads of broccoli
- Cherry tomatoes
- Carrot coins
- Apples or apple slices
- Spinach leaves
- Brussels sprouts
- Hardboiled eggs
These treats provide diversity to your chickens’ diet, which can make them lay better if they’re laying hens and taste better if they’re meat chickens. Either way, garlands are a beautiful way to give your chickens something fun to do, especially in the winter when there’s not much natural forage.
If you make treat garlands for your chickens over the holidays, it’s wise to create several at once and store unused ones in a freezer bag in the fridge, only putting out one or two garlands at a time. That way, when the garlands start to look tattered and used-up, you can replace them with fresh ones.
Get 105 HEFTY freezer bags for a great price on Amazon here.
Chickens Need Toys for Enrichment and Good Behavior
It’s nice to provide chickens with toys and other forms of entertainment to keep them occupied, especially during the cold winter months, when there’s not much to do outside.
It’s also essential to keep them from becoming bored and frustrated since boredom in chickens can lead to negative behaviors such as pecking, in-fighting, egg-eating, brooding, and bullying weaker members of the flock. Treats also help provide chicken with the nutrients they need to be good layers.
By keeping chickens entertained through the use of toys, treats, and enrichment objects, you do not only provide a higher quality of care for your chickens, but you also keep them from engaging in activities that make your life as their keeper much harder to manage.